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Would placing solar panels on MTR land provide Ky.'s energy needs?

I was reading an article recently about mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and got to thinking.... 

How many square miles have been cleared in Kentucky for MTR? 

And, if we covered all that space with photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, how much electricity in kilowatt-hours (kWh) would be produced? 

Would it be enough to match the electricity consumed in Kentucky each year? 

What about MTR in the U.S.? 

If we covered all the square miles that have been cleared for MTR in the U.S. with PV solar panels, what percentage of the national annual kWh consumption could be provided?

I decided to crunch the numbers and what I discovered was quite intriguing...

According to the Appalachian Voices website [1] (a non-profit committed to protecting the land, air and water of the central and southern Appalachian region), 574,000 acres (897 square miles) of land in Kentucky has been surface mined for coal and more than 293 mountains have been severely impacted or destroyed by MTR coal mining.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy website [2], the total electricity consumption in Kentucky (residential, commercial, and industrial) in 2005 was 89,351,000,000 kWh. 

The following projection is based on experience from PV solar installations already in place here in Kentucky and from the fact that we get four and a half hours of sunlight per day on average, accounting for clouds. To produce that much electricity in one year from PV solar panels in this region, around 190 square miles of land would need to be covered by a 69.1 GW (gigawatt) solar array. And, 897 square miles of land has been has been flattened by MTR. Therefore, if we merely put PV solar panels on 1/5th of our already cleared land, we would supply ALL of the electricity needs for the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky!

If we covered the entire 897 square miles of cleared MTR space in Kentucky, we could supply nearly 10% of the electricity needs of the entire U.S.! 

Additionally, according to Appalachian Voices website [1], a total of 1,160,000 acres (1,813 square miles) of land has been surface mined for coal in the central and southern Appalachian region. 

According to the Central Intelligence Agency website [3], the United States consumed a total of 3.873 trillion kWh of electricity in 2008. 

To produce that much electricity in one year from PV solar panels in this region, 8,225 square miles of land would need to be covered. Accordingly, roughly 22% of the electricity consumed in America could be provided by PV solar panels if the 1,813 square miles of land cleared by MTR in Appalachia were covered. 

At this point, you're probably asking yourself: that's great, but how much would it cost? And, what about energy storage so we can use that electricity at night?

I'll admit that projecting the costs for a solar array of this size if pure conjecture, but I'll do my best. 

Currently, large scale, megawatt PV solar panel arrays cost around $3 per watt to install without tax subsidies. A GW scale solar array might be closer to $2 per watt installed. Using this metric, it would cost about $138 billion to install the 69.1 GW solar array required to produce 100% of the electricity consumed in Kentucky per year. If the solar panels have the industry standard 25-year warranty, the cost of electricity comes to 6.2 cents per kWh. That's cheaper than what consumers in Kentucky pay for electricity right now (e.g. LG&E residential customers pay 7.9 cents/kWh).

There are many options available now for grid level energy storage, including, but not limited to: pumped hydro, compressed air energy storage (CAES), sodium-sulfur batteries, lead acid batteries, nickel-cadmium batteries, flywheels, and lithium ion batteries. 

Empty, abandoned coal mines in Germany are being looked at for pumped hydro energy storage for renewable energy systems [5]. Something I would assume we have plenty of in Kentucky. 

Adding energy storage could cost around $1 per watt to the solar array [6]. This would increase the cost of the array for Kentucky to $207 billion with an electricity cost of around 9.3 cents per kWh. That price per kWh is a little above what LG&E customers are paying right now, but will soon be on par with current rates as LG&E recently requested the Kentucky Public Service Commission to allow rates to increase by 19 percent over the next five years.

Again, the cost projection is all conjecture and does not include grid transmission and maintenance. But it's a start. 

This sounds like a lot of money until you consider that, according to a study by the Environmental Law Institute [4], the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. received $72 billion in subsidies from 2002 to 2008. Imagine using that money to fund a GW solar project in Kentucky!

Here's some proof that solar does work here, some public viewing of our solar installation's real-time and historical electricity production:

Highlands, Louisville, KY:

Radcliff, KY

Frankfort, KY

By Dan Hofmann

About the author: Dan Hofmann is President of RegenEn Solar LLC (, a solar panel installation company located in Louisville, KY.

Web Video Chat Comes Of Age With Hangouts on Google+ and Skype on Facebook


microsoft-lifecam-twinpackIt wasn’t long ago when the idea of chatting face to face with video was considered futuristic and pie in the sky thinking. But now many of us do it on a regular basis with people all over the world. For free. Let’s not forget how amazing these times we live in are.

Web Video Chat

It has been possible to chat via the Internet using webcams for years thanks to services such as Skype, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger. But in many ways it’s only this week that the idea has come of age.

This is due to a couple of new services in the form of Hangouts on Google+ and Skype on Facebook. Both of which bring new features and easy-to-use video chat into the mainstream.

Google+ Hangouts

Google+ is a new integrated social network from Google currently in beta testing. And one of its many features is Hangouts, a simple-to-use video chat service which can be used for one-on-one chats or for groups of people of up to 10 at a time to come and go.

The group video chat element works exceptionally well and will be recognizable to anyone who uses other Google products. The one-on-one element isn’t quite so accomplished, but luckily for us there is an alternative.

Skype On Facebook

Skype video chat has now been integrated into Facebook, showing up as an option right on the homepage and one your friends’ profiles. This comes after Microsoft acquired Skype, and it clearly wants to make it pay by placing it on the biggest site in the world.

Skype already offers group chat, but it isn’t free, requiring one user to be a premium service subscriber. This means that Skype on Facebook only caters to one-on-one video chats, but it does so with ultimate ease. You can now chat with any of your Facebook friends without any kind of effort.


Google+ Hangouts and Skype on Facebook offer different experiences and will cater to different needs. The former is great for group video chats, the latter for instantly connecting with friends on a one-on-one basis. Both are good additions to a bustling sector.


On July 2nd Google’s access to Twitter’s special firehose expired;

Sometime on the morning of July 3rd, Google Realtime Search mysteriously went offline and, assuming it was just another example of things breaking on a holiday weekend, most tech publications ignored it.

Well as it turns out the reason behind its disappearance was not so mysterious, on July 2nd Google’s access to Twitter’s special firehose expired and it pulled the feature in order to rethink its strategy. Bing, which had a similar deal with Twitter still has access to the firehose.

So what gives? While no one really has any details as to why the deal fell through, Google says that its disabled the project to incorporate Google+ results and Twitter says that it will continue to work with Google on other projects.

“Our vision is to have include Google+ information along with other realtime data from a variety of sources,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land.

Okay it’s not like Twitter will be pulled entirely from the service, Google can still crawl and organize publicly available tweets (each tweet is its own webpage). Google+, which bizarrely still does not have search, might eventually become a dominant enough service that users will want Realtime search that is free of Twitter noise.  Google might have also treated the deal as a learning experience, like when Eric Schmidtsat on Apple’s board and then launched Android.

But can Google’s realtime search succeed without Twitter? I know that I for one will be using it a lot less unless the public tweet crawl is comprehensive enough to supplant a service like Topsy, or Twitter’s own meager search.

So is Twitter declaring independence from Google or is Google declaring independence from Twitter? I really don’t know and it might simply be a question of the right price, but I had to guess who had the upper hand in negotiations it would be the latter, with Google now suffering from a huge case of “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”



Project will lead to the creation of 600 manufacturing and construction jobs in Ohio;

COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 5, 2011 – AEP Ohio, a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), has entered into a participation agreement with Turning Point Solar LLC, a joint venture of Agile Energy Inc. and New Harvest Ventures, to cooperate on the development of one of the largest solar generating facility east of the Mississippi River.

The 49.9-megawatt (MW) commercial solar facility will be built on approximately 750 acres of reclaimed land once mined for coal in Noble County, 20 miles southeast of Zanesville, Ohio. Construction and commercial operation of the facility will be phased in over three years with construction expected to begin in the summer of 2012 and finishing in 2015.

“When we originally announced this project last year, we were proud to play an instrumental role in helping bring new jobs to Ohio while advancing renewable energy technologies in the Midwest,” said Joe Hamrock, president and chief operating officer for AEP Ohio. “Today, that pride continues as we move a significant step closer to bringing this project on line. Taking the lead on these types of projects not only allows AEP Ohio to meet the state’s renewable energy requirements, it also benefits Ohio through new development, job creation and economic growth.”

According to Glen Davis, CEO of Agile Energy of San Francisco, one of the co-developers of the project, more than 600 direct jobs will be created, including approximately 300 during the construction and installation phase of the project.

Isofoton, a leading Spanish-based solar energy technology company, will supply solar modules for the Turning Point Solar development. As part of the project moving forward, the company has agreed to base its North American manufacturing facility in Ohio, and projects the facility will employ up to 330 when fully operational. Approximately 250,000 photovoltaic panels will be needed to build the plant.

In October 2010, AEP Ohio and Turning Point Solar entered into a memorandum of understanding. The agreement announced today formalizes the parties’ intentions to work toward the successful completion of what will be Ohio’s largest solar installation using solar modules made in Ohio. AEP Ohio intends to invest $20 million in the development of the project. The project was filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for approval on Friday, July 1, as part of the company’s Electric Security Plan. Once built, AEP Ohio will be solely responsible for the operation and maintenance of the solar generating facility.

Ohio Substitute Senate Bill 221 requires that AEP Ohio supply 0.06 percent of its load in 2012 with generation from solar resources, 0.09 percent in 2013, and 0.12 percent in 2014. The benchmark requirements ramp up annually to a total of 0.5 percent by the end of 2024. AEP Ohio already has met the benchmarks set for 2010 and 2011 through its long-term purchase power agreement for solar energy from the 10.08-MW Wyandot Solar facility in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

AEP Ohio provides electricity to nearly 1.5 million customers of major AEP subsidiaries Columbus Southern Power Company and Ohio Power Company in Ohio, and Wheeling Power Company in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. AEP Ohio is based in Gahanna, Ohio, and is a unit of American Electric Power. News and information about AEP Ohio can be found at


Google To Buy Hulu? | Search Giant One Of Possible Buyers Alongside Microsoft and Yahoo!


Hulu LogoGoogle is one of a trio of household names jockeying to take on Hulu. That is if the rumors are to be believed, and that the service is up for sale in the first place. None of which has been confirmed as yet.

Hulu For Sale

News leaked on June 22 that Hulu was potentially up for sale, with its owners News Corp., Walt Disney, Comcast, and Providence Equity seeking a buyer to take on the relatively successful online video service.

At the time those always-fun ‘inside sources’ claimed that the process would begin in two weeks, with interested parties invited to express their interest in bidding in the meantime. That process now seems to have begun, and the companies rumored to be interested in acquiring Hulu include the biggest names possible.

Interested Parties

The three major companies being talked about as ‘interested’ all have different reasons for being so. But all will want to score a victory over the others by nabbing Hulu before the others can.

Google could invigorate Hulu in the same way it did YouTube, plowing cash in and hoping to see a return from advertising in the future. Hulu already has an impressive base of advertising clients, which must make it an attractive acquisition target for Google.

Microsoft seems to be on something of an acquisition spree at present, using its vast pools of money to buy services which could be huge in the future. Microsoft could use view Hulu as an exclusive element to be added to its Xbox 360 console and the Xbox Live service.

Yahoo! has been seeking premium content for the last few months, and video could add to its new strategy of having strong editorial policies which help maintain the interests of readers (and viewers).


This still has to be filed under ‘Rumor’ for now, because without a direct announcement from Hulu or its partners, or one of the supposedly interested parties revealing that negotiations are taking place, we don’t actually know how true any of the news leaking out is.

This could all be conjecture underpinning an effort to raise the number of bidders and the price they’re willing to pay. I personally think Hulu will end up being sold, but to who and for how much is anyone’s guess.